Metropolitan police urge everyone not among 100,000 who paid for reservation to stay at home and watch on TV
Exactly a year ago, an estimated 500,000 people crammed into a small section of central London to view the New Year’s Eve firework display, resulting in crowded conditions that the mayor, Boris Johnson, said had made the free event “untenable”.
As a result, for the first time on Thursday evening only 100,000 paying ticket holders will be permitted to watch London’s annual celebration from a fenced-off area, with the Metropolitan police urging those without reservations to find their new year fun elsewhere – or better still, stay at home, noting “the display is being shown live and in full on television”.
If the restriction of this year’s event will disappoint some, others are likely to be breathing a sigh of relief, according to research that suggests almost two thirds of Britons are planning to avoid transport chaos, taxi queues and pricey babysitting charges by seeing in the new year at home.
A survey of 2,000 people by Post Office home insurance found that one in four plan to spend a quiet night in with their partner, with 23% staying in with family and friends, and a further 6% hosting a party or dinner at home.
Research from Cancer Research UK, released on Wednesday, found that only 11% of respondents ideally wanted to spend New Year’s Eve going out. One in seven did not want to celebrate the new year at all.
In Edinburgh, there were still tickets available on Tuesday for the city’s 75,000-capacity Hogmanay street party, as well as for a concert by Lily Allen in the West Princes Street gardens, although other events, including a candlelit concert at St Giles’ cathedral and a ceilidh at the Mound precinct, were sold out.
Supermarkets have reported strong sales for champagne and spirits, which may suggest an increasing number of people plan to celebrate away from pubs and clubs. A spokeswoman for Waitrose said sales of champagne and sparkling wine for the fortnight before Christmas were up by 14% and 20% respectively on last year, a trend she expected to continue into the pre-new year period.
Scottish malt whisky sales rose by 26% and gin by 29% with particular growth in premium bottled English beers, which saw a year-on-year sales increase of 46%.
But Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, said that while alcohol consumption overall was down 19% since 2004, figures from the Christmas period suggested that pubs had served more meals than ever before, and that she expected a similar trend over new year, with people heading out for meals and staying out to celebrate. “I think an awful lot of people will spend New Year’s Eve in pubs, because they are a place where you go to celebrate with groups of people as well as with friends and family.”
Weather forecasters predict a much milder evening than many parts of Britain have experienced over the past few days. But a spokesman for the Met Office said the country would be divided by a band of rain stretching from Aberdeen to south-west England, with generally dry conditions on either side, and temperatures of up to 10-11C in the west.
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